Audio Mixer: David Langhard.
Recording information: Dala Studios Winterthur (10/2015).
After making a splash with their Im Sinne der Zeit debut in 2014, Swiss duo Klaus Johann Grobe return with the excellent Spagat der Liebe, an album that takes their sound to a new and improved place. The first record was deeply indebted to the sound of German rock from the '70s, built on steadily chugging drums and bass overlaid with droning organ, shimmering vintage synths, and Sevi Landholt's laconic vocals. The duo proved quite adept at re-creating that sound while giving it a modern energy that made it much more than mere pastiche. Here they make an artistic left turn, almost entirely ditching the German '70s in favor of a sound that has elements of '80s synth pop, glitterball-ready disco, and the finest smooth chillwave. Maybe Landolt and drummer Daniel Bachmann got tired of being labeled Krautrock imitators, or maybe they just decided to widen their horizons organically; either way, it makes for a more fully realized and multidimensional album. Their debut was fun and a little scruffy around the edges; Spagat is the work of musicians tapping into something bright and bubbling over with creativity. The sounds they conjure from the synths, the variety of tempos and moods, the peaceful whoosh of the ballads, and the whomp of the uptempo tracks all add up to something impressive and endlessly fun. No matter what kind of song they try here, from the Hi-NRG disco of "Rosen des Abschieds," which comes tricked out with cheesy electronic drum flourishes, to the Stereolab-y drone pop of "Geschichten aus Erster Hand," it's clear that Klaus Johann Grobe have grown quite a bit. After building a very strong foundation, they've added so much interesting stuff on top that it almost feels like a different band. It would have been hard to predict they'd be able to make pop songs as shiny as "Ohne Mich" or ballads as heartfelt and sweet as "Pure Fantasie." They did it, though, and did it convincingly. Their initial sound was good; this album has them sneaking up on greatness. It will be fascinating to see where they head next, but for now Spagat der Leibe is a destination any fan of smart, perfectly constructed modern indie rock should set a course for immediately. ~ Tim Sendra